Books as art and treasure: events from the Bodleian Libraries

The Bodleian Libraries award the Colin Franklin Prize for book collecting to a student of the University of Oxford every year. The competition for 2017 is now announced. Hazel Wilkinson (Cambridge/Carr-Thomas-Ovenden Fellow at the Bodleian Libraries), winner of the first Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize at the University of London in 2014, will speak about building a book collection, in

‘“best edit.”: Book Collecting and the Hierarchy of Editions’

Monday 7 November at 5:15 pm in the Visiting Scholars’ Centre, Level 2, Weston Library.Entrance with University card, via the readers’ entrance, Parks Road.For information: contact Alexandra Franklin

Lecture, 9 November 2016 1.00pm — 2.00pm, Lecture Theatre, Weston Library
Adeela Qureishi speaks about assembling the display of Mughal paintings depicting hunting scenes, from albums of paintings in the Bodleian collections.
The display is on view in the Proscholium, Old Bodleian Library.
This lunchtime lecture in the Lecture Theatre, Weston Library, is free but places are limited so please complete our booking form to reserve tickets in advance.

A Humument: fifty years
14 November 2016 4.30pm — 7.00pm   Lecture Theatre, Weston Library
In 1966, the artist Tom Phillips bought a copy of the forgotten Victorian novel A Human Document and started to work with it. With paint, cut-up and collage, he created a new story and a new kind of work: A Humument. The Bodleian is celebrating the final, fully revised, 50th anniversary edition with this book launch event.
Dr Gill Partington (University of Warwick) & Dr Julia Jordan (UCL); followed by dialogue between Adam Smyth (English Faculty) and Tom Phillips
This event is free but places are limited so please complete our booking form to reserve tickets in advance.



German manuscripts and prints in Oxford: events in honour of Nigel Palmer

In honour of Professor emeritus Nigel F. Palmer, the eminent German medievalist, there will be a two day programme of events on medieval German manuscripts and prints hosted by the TORCH Oxford Medieval Studies programme and the Bodleian Libraries.
On Friday, the Oxford Medieval Studies lecture Devotional Culture in Late Medieval Strasbourg is given by Stephen Mossman. This will be followed by drinks to celebrate both the British launch of Nigel Palmer’s latest publication, The Prayer Book of Ursula Begerin – a critical edition, with an art-historical and literary introduction, of an illuminated manuscript made for a Strasbourg laywoman – and his 70th birthday. Everybody welcome but please RSVP to Modern Languages Office if you would like to come, to make sure there are enough spaces and wine!
On the following day, a workshop will be held on the topic German Manuscripts and Prints in Oxford in the Lecture Theatre Weston Library, 9:15am-5pm. Again, everybody is welcome but please respond to Henrike Lähnemann if you would like to attend.

17:00 Stephen Mossman: Devotional Culture in Late Medieval Strasbourg
18:00 Drinks Reception (Room 2)

09:15 Introduction and Welcome: Martin Kauffmann
09:30 Bodleian, MS. Germ. E. 22 & al. Strasbourg devotional manuscripts: Andrew Honey & Claudia Lingscheid & Monika Studer & Ruth Wiederkehr, Undine Brückner & Racha Kirakosian

11:00 Coffee break

11:15 Bodleian, MS. Douce 313 Franciscan Missal: Henrike Manuwald,
Bod-inc H-165 Book of Hours: Stefan Matter
Bodleian, MS. Opp. Add 4° 136 ‘Yiddish Songbook’: Elke Brüggen, Franz-Josef Holznagel
12:15 Bodleian, MS. Jun. 25 ‘Murbacher Hymns’: Michael Stolz
Merton College, MS 315 ‘Glosses’: Mary Boyle & Peter Kern

13:00 Lunch break (make your own arrangements)

14:45 Bodleian, MS. Hamilton 46 ‘Boethius’: Daniela Mairhofer
15:00 Bodleian, MS. Laud. Misc. 479 ‘Paradisus anime intelligentis’: Freimut Löser & Volker Mertens & Ben Morgan
15:45 Bodleian, MS Douce 367: Platterberger Chronicle: Linus Ubl
Bodleian, Bod-inc B-504 / R-32: Bettina Wagner
16:15 Taylorian, MS. 8° G. 2 Bruder Philipp, ‘Marienleben’: Kurt Gärtner & Christina Ostermann
16:45 Right to respond / Conclusion: Nigel F. Palmer
17:00 End of proceedings

Henrike Lähnemann
Professor of Medieval German * Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages * 41 Wellington Square * UK – OX1 2JF Oxford * 0044 1865 2-70498 * Follow @HLaehnemann * Visit the Reformation 2017 at the Taylorian Institute website

Bodleian Student Editions

Textual editing workshops for undergraduates and postgraduates

A collaboration between the Bodleian Libraries Department of Special Collections and Centre for Digital Scholarship, and Oxford’s Cultures of Knowledge project

We are looking for enthusiastic undergraduates and postgraduates from any discipline to take part in a pilot series of workshops in textual editing, working with Original Manuscripts in the Weston Library, provisionally scheduled as follows:

Michaelmas Term 2016
Wednesday 2nd week, 19 October
Thursday 8th week, 1 December

Hilary Term 2017
Wednesday 3rd week, 1 February
Thursday 7th week, 2 March

Trinity Term 2017
Wednesday 3rd week, 10 May
Thursday 7th week, 8 June

Participation is open to all students of the University of Oxford. If you would like to participate please contact Mike Webb, Curator of Early Modern Manuscripts,

Textual editing is the process by which a manuscript reaches its audience in print or digital form. The texts we read in printed books depend on the choices of editors across the years, some obscured more than others. The past few years have seen a surge of interest in curated media, and the advent of new means of distribution has inspired increasingly charged debates about what is chosen to be edited, by whom, and for whom.

These workshops will give students—the future users of texts for scholarly research—the opportunity to examine these questions in a space designed around the sources at the heart of them. The Bodleian Libraries’ vast collections give students direct access to important ideas free from years of mediation, and to authorial processes in their entirety, while new digital tools allow greater space to showcase the lives of ordinary people who may not feature in traditional narrative history.

The pilot sessions will focus on letters of the early modern period. Letters are a unique source, both challenging and essential for historians and literary critics: in the so-called ‘Republic of Letters’ they were a vital means by which the ideas which shaped our civilization were communicated and developed.

Participants will study Bodleian manuscripts, working with colleagues from the Bodleian’s Special Collections, the Centre for Digital Scholarship, and the Cultures of Knowledge project, to produce an annotated digital transcription which will be published on Culture of Knowledge’s flagship resource, Early Modern Letters Online, as ‘Bodleian Student Editions’.

Each workshop will introduce students to:

  1. Special Collections handling
  2. Palaeography
  3. Transcription and proofreading
  4. Metadata creation and curation
  5. Submitting metadata and transcriptions into Early Modern Letters Online

The Bodleian Libraries welcome thoughts from students at all levels on ways in which the use of archival material and engaging with digital scholarship can facilitate learning and research.

This Bodleian Student Editions series is organized by:

Helen Brown, DPhil candidate in English
Miranda Lewis, Digital Editor, Early Modern Letters Online
Olivia Thompson, Balliol-Bodley Scholar
Mike Webb, Curator of Early Modern Archives and Manuscripts
Pip Willcox, Head of the Centre for Digital Scholarship

Find out more

For an idea of the range of collections in the Weston, visit the exhibition Bodleian Treasures: 24 Pairs in the Treasury gallery in Blackwell Hall, where some famous items are illuminated through juxtaposition to a less known item that prompts reflection on the concept of a treasure. The latest themed exhibition at the Weston Library, Staging History, opened on 14 October in the adjacent ST Lee gallery.

You can find about the range of services and events the Centre for Digital Scholarship offers.

You may be particularly interested in an upcoming training course introducing the Guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative.

Letterpress printing at the Bodleian Library

The Bodleian Library’s printing workshop holds three 17th-century composing frames, along with presses and type of more recent date, all in working order and regularly used to teach type-setting and printing on hand-operated presses.

The workshop is  housed in a ground-floor room, the Schola Musicae, opening from the Old Schools Quadrangle in the Old Bodleian Library.  The room holds five free-standing iron presses, all dating from the 19th century, one proofing press and one etching press.

Richard Lawrence is the supervisor and teaches classes for beginners and more advanced printers, as well as teaching University of Oxford postgraduates. The Press hosts hands-on experiments, which have included publication of a broadside of Martin Luther’s 95 theses, produced by students from the Medieval and Modern Languages Faculty, and the ‘print-tweets’ made by artist Tamarin Norwood.

The Bodleian Library offers classes in hand-printing for students on University of Oxford courses and visitors from other universities, as well as regular workshops for families, adults, and primary school groups. Experienced printers may register to attend weekly open sessions in termtime.

For information write to:, or visit the Bibliographical Press webpage:


[Re-blog]: How to print your own 95 Luther-theses for 2017

How to print your own 95 Luther-theses

The 500th anniversary of the Reformation is fast approaching – time to get in the spirit and start printing your own 95 Luther theses!… [read more]

Re-blogged from the Luther in Oxford blog

Charlotte Hartmann, Henrike Lähnemann and Walker Thompson – proudly present the first print of Luther’s 95 theses in Oxford. Photo by Richard Lawrence
Charlotte Hartmann, Henrike Lähnemann and Walker Thompson – proudly present the first print of Luther’s 95 theses in Oxford. Photo by Richard Lawrence

Editors learn about paper, quills, and ink for closer reading

Traherne paper folding_1_blog

Members of the editorial board of the Oxford edition of Thomas Traherne’s (c. 1637-1674) works took part in a one-day workshop at the Weston Library, studying the ink and handwriting in manuscripts associated with Traherne’s works, including handwritten corrections in printed editions. They were guided by Jana Dambrogio, Thomas F. Peterson (1957) Conservator at the MIT Libraries, and a Sassoon Visiting Fellow at the Bodleian this month.

The first part of the workshop, hosted at the Bodleian Conservation studios by Andrew Honey, involved making iron gall ink (which has a dramatic colour change) and copper gall inks.

Participants had a chance to write with goose quills and steel nib pens on handmade paper, using chancery paper from the University of Iowa Center for the Book , with the help of papermaker Timothy Barrett.

Traherne quills_blogpost

Andrew and Jana talked about the western hand paper making process, ink making, quill shaping, and showed examples of other writing tools and materials (handmade sealing wax, stamps, paper making mould, pounce pots, etc.)

Participants all received a locked letter and later, in a seminar session, looked at three examples of folding techniques used by Thomas’s brother Philip Traherne (1635-1686), in letters preserved in Bodleian collections. Examination of major Traherne items from the collections, and additional material kindly lent by college libraries of Balliol, Brasenose, and Queen’s Colleges, formed the second part of the day. Balliol and Brasenose college library staff participated in the day with the Traherne editors.

The Oxford Bibliographical Society provided the funding for this workshop for the Oxford Traherne team.
The Oxford Traherne edition website:

Bodleian Fellows Research, Summer 2016

Some of the Bodleian Visiting Fellows awarded grants for research visits in 2016-17 have started arriving at the Weston Library.

Jana Dambrogio (Thomas F. Peterson (1957) Conservator, MIT Libraries), Sassoon Fellow, is examining ‘locked letters’ in Bodleian collections. [See an earlier blogpost here] Her first challenge is to discover the material, by looking through collections of letters from the 16th and 17th centuries. She consulted Mike Webb, curator of early modern manuscripts, and they started looking at volumes of letters in which Dambrogio identified  distinctive styles of folding and sealing, the kind of usage which her research will examine in detail.

Mike Webb and Jana Dambrogio

On August 9, the Bodleian Fellows Seminar heard from Laura Estill (Texas A&M), the Renaissance Society of America-Bodleian Visiting Fellow. Dr Estill has been working on the Edmond Malone collection, and she compared Malone’s collecting of Elizabethan plays to the collection of John Phillip Kemble, which is now held in the Huntington Library, and spoke about the significance of collections like these, made from the second half of the 18th century onwards, in shaping the canon of early modern plays.


Shall I compare thee to a sans-serif?

The Shakespeare sonnets collected in 2016 contain an astoundingly broad range of printed versions, coming from a wide range of printers from around the world. I recently looked through some of these and was fascinated to discover the many differences between the different editions, which caused me to ponder whether to write Shakespeare using a different typeface, orthography or other presentational choice is to reproduce precisely the same essential message.

Take, for example, the difference between two different editions of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 (“Shall I compare” etc) which were presented side-by-side to one another. One, taken from Shakespeare’s 1609 First Folio, is written with Shakespeare’s original spelling and orthography, now fairly antiquated in its use of such archaisms as “u” in lieu of “v”, or the “long s” (“ſ”). In contrast, the second version, taken directly from Wikipedia, not only uses a modern sans serif typeface, but also a modern and standardised form of spelling throughout.

For the modern reader, this functions as something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it could be argued that placing Shakespeare in a modern typeface and orthography causes him to appear more directly relevant to an audience more familiar with that more contemporary style. But it could also be seen to appear strangely synthetic and divested of its original meaning. It could be seen to lose something of its “authenticity”. A rather vague term, this could be here seen to refer to a certain consistency between the physical appearance of a work and the cultural context in which it originated. To take an Elizabethan poem and write it down in a modern style could be seen by some as deeply jarring in its inconsistency.

This then raises the important question of whether, as Ben Jonson said, “[Shakespeare] was not of an age, but for all time” or whether there is some specific temporal quality to his work that necessitates it being placed into its original cultural context. This is the same debate which tends to come into play, for example, when it is debated whether Shakespeare should be staged in modern or period costume. Several of the sonnets printed for this project gesture  towards “authenticity”, with Sonnet 105 (“To me, fair friend” etc), from earlier this year, while at first appearing mock-Elizabethan through its antiquated typeface and use of illustration, nonetheless, upon closer inspection, also making use of modern orthography. The implication may be then that a balance must be preserved, so that Shakespeare’s message may retain more or less its original meaning, but also be capable of altering that meaning in subtle ways in order better to fit a contemporary cultural context.

For modern readers, there is a certain value both in understanding Shakespeare’s work as it originally would have been and as it is now and therefore a certain value in comprehending how the way in which Shakespeare is written could be seen to affect what it means.

from Benjamin Maier, Intern at the Bodleian Libraries

Isocrates Programme visits the Weston Library

Isocrates students debate

On July 19, Year 9s from Walthamstow Academy in London visited the Bodleian’s exhibition, ‘Shakespeare’s Dead’ as part of the Isocrates Wider Reading Programme.

During this day-long programme, the group visited the Pitt Rivers Museum, the Museum of the History of Science and the Shakespeare’s Dead exhibition at the Weston Library.

Three groups studied the following courses with leaders from the Isocrates Programme, who are university students from Oxford and a range of other universities:

Shakespeare and Hiphop
Postcolonial Histories
STEM and Ethics

Ending the day at the Weston Library, students gave presentations outlining what they had learned, talking about the ethics of medical research, colonialism and its effects on the UK today, and performing a hip-hop version of the fight scene from Romeo and Juliet.

Responding to the experience, 84% of the students said that it had made them more likely to apply to university, and comments from students included
“Enjoyed it and it will help me for GCSE”
“I really enjoyed it and I found it very interesting and useful and I also learned a lot.”
“I really wish to have an opportunity to do this again”

Woodblock printing: history, art, and science

On Friday 17th June 2016, the Centre for the Study of the Book hosted a workshop on the history, science and art of woodblock printing. Organized by Dr. Giles Bergel under a Katharine Pantzer Fellowship from the Bibliographical Society of America, the workshop focussed on English woodcutting and wood-engraving with particular reference to the so-called Charnley-Dodd collection of original wooden printers’ blocks assembled in Newcastle in the mid nineteenth century, used by several generations of Newcastle printers to print illustrations for ballads and chapbooks.

Science of woodblocks workshop 17 June 2016
Left to right: Nigel Tattersfield, Barry McKay, Graham Williams, Martin Kochany, Pip Wilcox, Joon Son Chung, Andrew Zisserman, Blair Hedges, Andrew Honey, Judith Siefring, Richard Lawrence, Elizabeth Savage, Martin Andrews, Paul Nash, Melanie Wood, May Sung. Not shown: Alexandra Franklin, Ben Higgins, Giles Bergel

Opening the proceedings, Dr. Bergel offered a brief history of the printers and their blocks, offprints of which can be seen in an 1858 catalogue  produced by Newcastle printer Emerson Charnley, and in an 1862 catalogue of the same set of blocks, with additions, issued by William Dodd.  The workshop was fortunate to have to hand the Bodleian’s copy of the Charnley catalogue, and even an original woodblock employed in the 1862 Dodd group in the possession of Graham Williams.

Charnley-Dodd woodblocks are also to be found in McGill University Library ; the British Museum ; and the Huntington Library. Dr. Mei-Ying Sung  next spoke on her work on cataloguing the large Armstrong Collection of woodblocks in the Huntington, including Charnley-Dodd blocks. A theme of the day, expressed also by Dr. Elizabeth Savage, Judith Siefring, Dr. Melanie Wood and others, was the necessity for collection histories and cataloguing standards for these printing materials, held in libraries, museums, working collections and elsewhere, that pose particular challenges for researchers and curators.

The workshop next heard from Barry McKay on the woodcutter only known by the initials ’RM’ on Charnley and other blocks employed to print chapbooks in Cumbria and elsewhere, some copied from stock blocks used over two centuries previously: the presentation testified to the power of combining bibliographical analysis of impressions, together with external evidence taken from book trade history.

There was a joint presentation from two members of Oxford’s Visual Geometry Group . Professor Andrew Zisserman explained the methods behind the ImageMatch tool , implemented by Visual Geometry alumnus Relja Arandjelovic in Bodleian Ballads Online. Joon Son Chung presented his award-winning ImageBrowse tool , the sorted output of ImageMatch clustered by block and under semantic ICONCLASS  keywords (the work of Dr. Alexandra Franklin for the original Bodleian Ballads Database). ImageBrowse provides powerful visualisations of woodblock degradation over time  as well as tools for comparing common, similar and neighbouring block-impressions. The work of Visual Geometry met with acclaim from all participants, as it has done throughout the bibliographical community.

Martin Kochany  from Hot Bed Press, Salford, presented a diagrammatic overview of the processes, objects and relationships under discussion, paying particular attention to methods of how blocks can be copied (in some cases, very accurately: see for example, the Bodleian’s early ballad collections ).

Woodcut diagram Kochany_sm
click on diagram to enlarge

Martin argued that printers will always find pragmatic solutions to the problem at hand, whether by ad-hoc block-repair, block copying or touching-up printed sheets by hand: ‘bodging’ is the norm. The matter of bodging engaged many of the other practitioners present, including Paul Nash, who presented a ‘dabbed’ type-metal cast of a woodblock made by him and Giles Bergel ; Richard Lawrence , Martin Andrews and Graham Williams, who presented some American woodblock-repair plugs (plugged holes can be seen in several Charnley blocks). Martin Kochany cautioned researchers trying to sequence apparently unique woodblocks to be aware of printers’ panoply of bodges, and to look for the contradictory or marginal cases that might define the norm.

The workshop briefly touched on the relationship between woodcut and wood-engraving. There was discussion of the tolerances of a woodblock used over a long working life, and how the development of wood-engraving was both a more robust and a more refined process, Nigel Tattersfield bringing his immense knowledge of the career and work of Thomas Bewick  to bear on the subject. Melanie Wood’s account of three linked collections at Newcastle University’s Robinson Library (the White , Burman-Alnwick  and Crawhall collections) also opened the discussion out from the Charnley-Dodd collection to a broader history of woodcutting and illustration design.

The workshop then concluded, but was immediately followed by a public lecture from workshop participant Professor Blair Hedges , who presented his work on the science of woodblock illustrations, with particular reference to species of woodworm  and to the cracking of blocks, or of carved lines, in relation to the woodgrain or to the thickness of the line. A response was given by Reading University lecturer  Martin Andrews : an appreciative and lively discussion chaired by Giles Bergel then ensued, engaging an audience of bibliographers, printing practitioners, book and print historians. The quality of the discussion vindicated the approach of the workshop in bringing together scientists, practitioners and historians, and testified in particular to the importance of Blair’s research. A drinks reception was held, fittingly, at the Bodleian’s Bibliographical Press.

Research continues, in the form of ongoing and new collaborations – in particular around dabbing and other block-reproduction methods, the application of Computer Vision technology to the study of printing, and the history of technique, materials and style in wood-engraving.

The workshop was funded by the Bibliographical Society of America and the English Physical Science and Research Council as part of the SEEBIBYTE project . It was supported by the Bodleian Libraries Centre for the Study of the Book.

from Giles Bergel

Woodblocks reception 18 June enh